Global report finds link between corruption and rising violence

Israel was one of only 8 countries to improve in 2022, with Transparency International crediting rise to previous government’s commitment to democracy and independent judiciary

Police block a protest against the jailing of opposition leader Alexei Navalny in Yekaterinburg, Russia, Jan. 23, 2021. (AP Photo/Anton Basanayev, file)
Police block a protest against the jailing of opposition leader Alexei Navalny in Yekaterinburg, Russia, Jan. 23, 2021. (AP Photo/Anton Basanayev, file)

BERLIN — Most of the world continues to fail to fight corruption, with 95 % of countries having made little to no progress since 2017, a closely watched study by an anti-graft organization found Tuesday.

Transparency International’s 2022 Corruption Perceptions Index, which measures the perception of public sector corruption according to experts and businesspeople, also found that governments hampered by corruption lack the capacity to protect the people, while public discontent is more likely to turn into violence.

“Corruption has made our world a more dangerous place. As governments have collectively failed to make progress against it, they fuel the current rise in violence and conflict – and endanger people everywhere,” said Delia Ferreira Rubio, the chairperson of Transparency International.

“The only way out is for states to do the hard work, rooting out corruption at all levels to ensure governments work for all people, not just an elite few,” she added.

The report ranks countries on a scale from a “highly corrupt” 0 to a “very clean” 100. Denmark is seen as the least corrupt this year with 90 points, and Finland and New Zealand both follow closely at 87. Strong democratic institutions and regard for human rights also make these countries some of the most peaceful in the world, the report said.

However, the report also shows that while Western Europe remains the top-scoring region, some of its countries are showing worrying signs of decline.

Denmark’s Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen speaks with the media as she arrives for an EU summit in Brussels, Dec. 15, 2022. (AP Photo/Olivier Matthys)

The United Kingdom dropped five points to 73 — its lowest-ever score. The report said a number of scandals from public spending to lobbying, as well as revelations of ministerial misconduct, have highlighted woeful inadequacies in the country’s political integrity systems. Public trust in politics is also worryingly low, it said.

Countries like Switzerland, at 82, and the Netherlands, which scored 80 points, are showing signs of decline amid concerns over weak integrity and lobbying regulations — even though their scores remain high in comparison to the rest of the world.

Israel, on the other hand, has shown an opposite trend, scoring 63 in 2022 as opposed to 59 in 2021.

It has previously scored a 60 in 2020 and 2019, 61 in 2018, and 62 in 2017.

According to Nili Arad, chairperson of Transparency International Israel, the country’s improved score is due to the independent conduct of the previous government and the judiciary throughout 2022.

“The main reason for Israel’s improved ranking stems from the government’s conduct in Israel during 2022 as a liberal democracy insisting on a strong and independent judiciary, from following complaints and indicting cases of political corruption, to the independence of the attorney general and the protection of gatekeepers and the freedom of the media,” she told Channel 12.

The issue resonates in Israel where the new government has proposed a radical overhaul of the judicial system, which critics say will undermine the rule of law and democracy. The government says the move is necessary to restore balance to a system where the judiciary has outsized powers over the elected political officials.

Illustrative: Prime Minister Yair Lapid (center) and Alternate Prime Minister Naftali Bennett (left) at cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem on July 31, 2022. (Marc Israel Sellem/POOL)

In Eastern Europe, corruption is seen as remaining rampant as many countries reached historic lows.

Russia in particular was highlighted as a glaring example of corruption’s impact on peace and stability.

The country’s invasion of Ukraine almost a year ago was a stark reminder of the threat that corruption and the absence of government accountability pose for global peace and security, the report said. It added that kleptocrats in Russia, which is at 28 points, have amassed great fortunes by pledging loyalty to President Vladimir Putin in exchange for profitable government contracts and protection of their economic interests.

“The absence of any checks on Putin’s power allowed him to pursue his geopolitical ambitions with impunity,” the report concluded. “This attack destabilized the European continent, threatening democracy, and has killed tens of thousands.”

Before the invasion, Ukraine, which scored 33 points, had a low score but was undertaking important reforms and steadily improving. Even after the outbreak of the war, the country continued to prioritize anti-corruption reforms. However, wars disrupt normal processes and exacerbate risks, the report pointed out, allowing corrupt actors to pocket funds meant for recovery. Earlier this month investigations exposed alleged war profiteering by several senior officials.

The index rated 180 countries and territories. Somalia was at the bottom with 12 points; South Sudan tied with Syria for second-to-last with 13.

Only seven countries other than Israel improved last year, among them Ireland with 77 points, South Korea with 63, Armenia at 46, and Angola at 33.

In this photo provided by the Ukrainian Presidential Press Office, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky attends a news conference with Finnish President Sauli Niinisto after their meeting in Kyiv, Ukraine, January 24, 2023. (Ukrainian Presidential Press Office via AP)

The report also pointed out how after decades of conflict, South Sudan is in a major humanitarian crisis with more than half of the population facing acute food insecurity — and corruption is exacerbating the situation.

In Yemen, at 16, where complaints of corruption helped spark civil war eight years ago, the report said that the state has collapsed, leaving two-thirds of the population without sufficient food in what has become one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world.

Compiled since 1995, the index is calculated using 13 data sources that provide perceptions of public sector corruption from businesspeople and country experts. Sources include the World Bank, the World Economic Forum and private risk and consulting companies.

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